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Writing for the Engines? Don't Forget Your Site Visitors!

by Karon Thackston

It's an unfortunate reality of 'Net life'. Site owners discover the wonders of search engine optimization and make the choice to pursue the coveted Top 10 spots. What happens next is usually a whirlwind of site revisions that oftentimes has a damaging effect. Without even realizing it, site owners sacrifice one vital element of Web success to save another.

Two things must be in place for your site to prosper. First, you must have traffic - qualified traffic. Second, you must have copy that provides the solutions your visitors are looking for and causes them to act in the fashion you want them to act. While search engines provide the first, they have absolutely nothing to do with whether your site makes sales. Your copy should be designed to engage the customer and handle this part of the task.

However, when people get too carried away with search engine optimization, they sometimes neglect their visitors. All copywriting efforts move in the direction of pleasing the spiders and bots. The customer winds up as an afterthought.

Balance Is A Must

In order to create or revise site copy so that it is mutually appealing to the engines and your site visitors, you must take the needs of both into consideration. That means creating a delicate balance that serves the mechanical search engine spiders and bots and the human prospects/customers.

What does each of these groups want? What is the best way to work the needs of both into your copywriting?

It all starts with your keywords.

Creating A Keyword Plan

Keywords should be one of your primary thoughts when it comes to SEO copywriting. More times than not, they will have a great impact on the direction your page takes. And rightfully so. If you've done your keyword research correctly, you'll have found those phrases that your customers are actually searching for. That means they want the information that goes along with the keyphrases, too. See how this all falls into place? The *customer* is dictating what search terms you use then the search terms will, in turn, help bring in the customers. For that reason, you'll want to know what keywords/phrases you're going to use before you begin writing. Let me give you an example.

Let's pretend you are about to write copy for an independent automobile dealership in your area. You might immediately begin to think about creating copy that mentions the large inventory; the exceptional, friendly service; and the convenient, extended hours. However, just then you discover that the most applicable keyphrases for the particular page you're writing are: "auto bad debt financing" and "used car trade in." That means your page about inventory and customer service is going to have to take a radical turn toward trade ins and financing.

Before you begin writing SEO copy, create a list of available keyphrases then compare it to the pages you want to offer on your site. Does it match up? Are there highly searched keyphrases that are left out? You might want to consider creating pages that provide the information these keyphrases deal with. After all, if lots of people are searching on that term, there is obviously a need for someone to provide the associated information. Don't try to force keyphrases that just don't fit into pages *you* want to create. Let your human visitors lead you, and they, in turn, will help you get great positioning.

Using Keyphrases In Your Copy

Once you've decided which keyphrases you'll use and have determined the direction each page will take, it's time to begin writing. Again, keep both your goals in mind: writing to suit the spiders and writing to suit your human visitors.

Because there are so many variables when it comes to SEO copywriting, you have to pick and choose which ones you use and when. You also have to remember your site visitors. You don't want copy that sounds forced or stiff. What you want is copy that reads very naturally.

Yes, you'll hear about SEO copywriting techniques that say you should place keyphrases everywhere you possibly can. The more the better. The higher the "keyword density" the higher your rankings. I strongly disagree.

Shoving keyphrases into everyplace they can possibly fit is not smartů it's annoying! The search engines don't rank you higher for having keyphrases dropped in between every other word, and your visitors get frustrated at reading copy that sounds ridiculous.

For the sake of both parties whom you are trying to impress, use keyphrases strategically, not substantially.

Here's one example that will show you what I mean. I'll bet, if you try hard, you can figure out the primary keyphrase being used here (sarcastic grin):

Custom Silver Jewelry Makers

As custom silver jewelry makers, we design and manufacture custom silver jewelry to your specifications. This includes custom silver jewelry rings, custom silver jewelry bracelets, custom silver jewelry necklaces, custom silver jewelry earrings, and practically any other type of custom silver jewelry you can think of.

It's way too much. People don't talk that way and they certainly don't write that way unless they are trying to achieve high search engine rankings. It's overwhelming. Even if it would result in higher rankings (and it won't), sales would almost certainly suffer just because no customer would want to read more than two sentences of copy that was written in that fashion.

Balance! Always Rememberů Balance.

For the purposes of SEO copywriting, you must avoid radical swings toward the customer or in the opposite direction toward the engines. Focusing solely on one will alienate the other. Remember to define the needs of both parties you're trying to gain the attention of (spiders and visitors), develop a keyword plan before you begin writing, and use keyphrases strategically, not substantially. When you do, you'll find your SEO copywriting efforts will bring about more fruitful results.

Copy not getting results? Learn to write SEO copy that impresses the engines and your visitors with The Step-by-Step Copywriting Course. Be sure to check out Karon's latest e-report How To Increase Keyword Saturation (Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy). You can also subscribe to Business Essentials, Karon's free copywriting ezine. More about Karon Thackston

(C) Mike Grehan & Net Writer Publishing 2004

Editor: Mike Grehan. Search engine marketing consultant, speaker and author. http://www.search-engine-book.co.uk

Associate Editor: Christine Churchill. KeyRelevance.com

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